For the past two weeks, I have had a wonderful experiences teaching games to 2nd and 3rd grade students attending the Lift Eastbrook Afterschool program. Lift is a local, non-profit project designed to help selected Eastbrook students reach their full academic potential. It is a Christ-centered afterschool program that emphasizes Academic Achievement, Whole Person Growth, and Spiritual Nurture. Why the name Lift?
We believe that children sometimes need an extra “lift” to help them reach their full God-given potential. By helping our children, we in turn help our local school and our community.
How did I get involved with this program? I was approached by Colleen Yordy, one of the team leaders of the Lift program. She had stopped by our house to pick something up and saw my collection of games. She asked about the games and was curious if I might be interested in sharing that passion with the students of Lift. As part of their afterschool program, they have a time of fun activities. We talked for a few weeks about the program and how I might be involved, then set two days for me to meet with the students, first with 3rd graders then with 2nd graders.
Last week, I taught the 3rd graders how to play a simplified version of Pirate Dice. Pirate Dice is a dice rolling, guessing, and bluffing game that my family and friends have loved for years. I knew the pirate theme would also intrigue the students, pulling them into the game. The game mechanics were a bit challenging at first but the students caught on quickly. They loved the interaction with each other. What they did not realize is they were also learning math, probability and strategy as we were playing. The more they play the game, the greater strategy and math they will learn and understand. I donated a set of one hundred D6s in a bag crocheted by my daughter so the program could continue playing the game after my session.
From my experience with the 3rd graders, I determined Pirate Dice would be too difficult for the 2nd graders. So I stopped by my FLGS, The Game Preserve, and checked out the HABA games they had in stock and found a wonderful HABA game. The staff at the Game Preserve were wonderful to talk with about what I was looking for in a game, and then offered me a generous discount on three copies of the game since it was for this afterschool program. So this week, I taught Animals Upon Animals Crest Climbers to the 2nd graders, a game that teaches eye-hand coordination, patience, and strategy. This game was perfect for the younger students and you could feel the excitement in the room as they played. We started out with each student having just three animals to begin with and I simplified the rules at first. After a few rounds playing, I then introduced additional animals and more rules. By the end of the session the students and their team leaders were playing most of the rules, all the animals, and the room was loud with excited voices and tumbling wooden blocks. I left behind three copies of the game as a donation to the program.
Although the program could have reimbursed me for the games I taught, I used the funds from a recent freelancing project to pay for these donated games. I really wanted to give back to this program to see it succeed. A way I could do that as a gamer and a freelancer was to teach the games and provide them to the program so they can continue to play and enjoy them. I feel very blessed to do the freelancing I do. Having the opportunity to share my passion, my time, and some of my resources blessed me as much as it did the students.
If you like gaming, students, and teaching, then I highly recommend seeking out an opportunity to work with an afterschool program, teaching the students games. It was such an enjoyable experience sharing our hobby with the students, interacting with them, and feeling their energy. I came away from each game session energized and look forward to returning to Lift in the new year to play more games with the students. But, understand working with younger students is not for everyone and it is challenging. You have to enjoy being with the younger students, be willing to be very patient and flexible as you teach the games, and open to finding games appropriate for the students’ age and abilities. This is not a time for you to play games yourself. This is a time for you to be the teacher, understanding your students, and sharing your passion.
Have you utilized your passion for gaming or your freelancing experience with any afterschool programs? If so, please share? I would love to hear your stories and learn from them.